4 Japanese Descendants in the Philippines Visit JapanGovernments working to resolve legal issues quickly 1 descendent searches for father’s identity, 3 meet relatives
In the turmoil during and immediately after World War II, many children of Japanese men who had been living in the Philippines and married Philippine women lost contact with their fathers, who returned to Japan or died during the war. These children remained in the Philippines but have been unable to obtain either Japanese or Philippine citizenship. The Nippon Foundation has been working with the Philippine Nikkei-jin Legal Support Center since 2006 to assist these individuals, who lost the documents to prove their identity in the chaos after the war or are otherwise unable to prove their Japanese identity, with obtaining Japanese citizenship and restoring their identity and rights as second-generation Japanese. Four of these Japanese descendants visited Japan in late November – early December.
Visiting Kumamoto for second shuseki application
Oligario Aguan Nagata, now 71 years old, was born in the port city of Davao on the island of Mindanao, where many Japanese lived at the time. When he was in the second grade his Philippine mother told him that his father’s name was “Nagata” and he was from “Kumamoto,” and that he and his brothers harvested akaba (an edible sea plant) in Davao. When Oligario was three months old his father wanted to take him away, but his mother refused and surrendered to the U.S. forces. With only that information, he didn’t know his father’s full name or birthplace, or his whereabouts since then. Mr. Nagata flew to Fukuoka Airport on November 28 for an interview the next day at the Kumamoto Family Court, as he believes his father was originally from Kumamoto. At the hearing, he conveyed through a translator what he knew from his mother: his father had come to the Philippines in 1936 and harvested akaba; he had a friend named “Kodama;” he always carried a gun so he may have been involved with the Japanese army; he had a picture of his father before the war but had lost it; and his father may have been on a boat that was forcibly repatriating Japanese but had been sunk, and he has never heard from him. The interview was to initiate a process called shuseki, which is the approval to create a new family registry that is required to obtain Japanese citizenship. Mr. Nagata had previously petitioned the Tokyo Family Court in 2013, but his request was rejected for lack of evidence supporting his Japanese ancestry. This time, he was able to provide new evidence in the form of a written statement prepared from a hearing in the Philippines in May that an official from the Japanese embassy in the Philippines attended. According to his lawyer, this is the first time that a petition is being made using a statement from a hearing conducted with a member of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in attendance as evidence. At a press conference at the Kumamoto prefectural government office, Mr. Nagata said, “My father was Japanese, so I am Japanese. I would definitely like to live in Japan if my request is approved.”
Three siblings visit father’s home
The three other Japanese descendants were siblings – Salome Fusato Belino (age 78), Jaime Fusato (76), and Caridad Fusato Comez (71) – who had their shuseki application approved in October and came to Japan to meet relatives in Okinawa. Their father, Taruji Fusato, moved to the Philippines in 1918 to work as a fisherman in Palawan Province, which had a large Japanese emigrant population. Ten years later he married a local woman with whom he had eight children, but after the war began he served as an interpreter for the Japanese army while his family evacuated to the island of Culion, and at the war’s end he was captured by U.S. forces and forcibly repatriated to Japan. Taruji remarried after returning to Japan and lost touch with his family in the Philippines, and died in Okinawa in 1990 at the age of 99.
Unlike most Japanese descendants in similar circumstances, a record of Taruji’s wedding was found in government archives in Manila, and the children still had a photograph of him with “1926 Taruji Fusato” written on the back. With this evidence the three descendants filed their shuseki application with the Naha Family Court in September and it was approved unusually quickly, one month later. They are now able to create a new family registry and are expected to obtain Japanese citizenship.
The three arrived at Naha Airport on the afternoon of December 1, accompanied by a lawyer and an official of the Philippine Bureau of Immigration. They were met at the airport by Taruji’s daughter from his second marriage and 10 relatives from the city of Itoman, where Taruji is buried. The relatives held up a banner as they arrived, welcoming them to Japan and to the Fusato family, and their half-sister presented them each with flowers. On December 2 they held a press conference at a hotel in Naha, where they thanked those who had assisted them to this point, including the Philippine Nikkei-jin Legal Support Center, and expressed a desire to live in Japan if it became possible. They also noted that although life in the Philippines had been difficult, they had supported each other. They regretted not having been able to care for their father in his old age, and that they had not been able to meet him during his lifetime, but were now glad to know that he had lived a long life and was well loved after returning to Japan.
On December 3 the three siblings toured Itoman, including a visit to their father’s grave, with their relatives and supporters. Later in the day, they went to the house where Taruji had lived and had a “welcome party” with roughly 20 relatives. They returned to the Philippines on December 4.
Communications Department The Nippon Foundation